Down Valley to Basalt

A bit of sightseeing down valley in Basalt while Jan had her time on the Galileo Table wrapped up our visit to Snowmass. In Snowmass, ski clothes are the norm and skis are the common accessory. In Basalt, waders are the norm and fly fishing poles are the accessory. Basalt is a delightful old mining town with independent businesses lining Main Street. We found a lunch spot by the river and had delicious, house made veggie burgers.

Speaking of “down valley,” we heard a bit of local lingo while in town.

Down Valley: in the direction of decreasing elevation (assumed to mean Basalt unless otherwise noted)

Up Valley: in the direction of increasing elevation (assumed to mean Aspen unless otherwise noted)

On The Mountain: Snowmass in Snowmass, Aspen in Aspen. The other two ski resorts have to be named specifically.

Heavy Metal: private jet, as in “There’s a lot of heavy metal at the airport this weekend.”


Base Camp Adventure

We’ve done just about everything in Snowmass except ski, dog sled, and ride the big cats, but one place remained. Snowmass Village Base Camp was our final area to browse. The beautiful area at the base of the ski area is home to a ski lift, gondola, ski school, kids area, and construction. Lots of construction.

Watching the kids come down the hill was good fun, and the ski instructors picking up the littlest ones who fell a whole lot gave us the giggles.

I was talking Roberta into a round trip ride on the gondola (to Starbucks and back) when we were told to move back because the fire alarm went off in the kiddie building. Go figure.

Eventually we did board the gondola for a quick round trip. Before talking Mom into it, I failed to realize that the darned thing slows down but doesn’t actually come to a full stop. Getting Mom on and off the moving car became just another part of the adventure!

The construction area is surrounded by black temporary walls featuring ski related art from each decade in Snowmass’ 50 year history. We spotted some cut outs and a kind concierge snapped our photo. I just love that Mom is willing to do these silly things!

It Takes a Village

We know who our friends are in times of need. The people in the Snowmass community are wrapping their arms around Jan and Ned and hugging them tight. (Does that sound like Sarah Palin, or Tina Fey as Sarah Palin, to anyone but me?) Here are just a sampling of the ways the community is supporting my cousin and her husband:

Meals for Ned on Mondays and Thursdays through an organization that supports families with medical needs. Ned has known the couple that cooks for him for years now and claims she is a 5 star chef in her own right!

Every morning, the neighbor behind them comes over to bring the newspaper to their door and “check to make sure we’re still alive.” Years and years ago they started clearing a walkway between their houses and the connection continues.

Grocieries and shopping for basic necessities is handled by a friend who stops by weekly for their shopping list.

Another neighbor handles the trash cans.

A neighbor picks up the mail, a big deal in Snowmass Village where there is no home delivery.

Their hair stylist makes housecalls.

The local church streams their services, so Jan and Ned can be a part of the congregation while at home.

Long drives to appointments further away are made possible by still other friends.

And, while we were visiting, a friend from Ned’s bike shop stopped by with lentil soup and a crisp of some type, just because.

Of course, this is just the community support. The home health nurse and occupational therapist are in addition to these. It is simply beautiful to see the power of community.

Hidden World

Up the unassuming walkway and through the front door is holds a world of delights at Explore Bookstore. Small rooms stocked floor to ceiling with books, titles we’ve seen and so many that are awaiting discovery. This bookstore is clearly a labor of love, a gift to the community.


Up the narrow stairs are more books, including Type Tells Tales that caught my eye, and the Pyramid Bistro restaurant. The wood, oversized windows and cool tones feel like a high end yoga studio. The menu focuses on items that pack the most nutrition possible into each bite (calorie), nutritarian. We enjoyed the service, polished but not pushy, and delicious meals. Roberta craved salad and had a Honey Gem Salad and Louise had the Farro Risotto to calm her altitude sickness. The sun pouring through the windows with views of Apsen Mountain nearby gave us time to relax and enjoy conversation in the middle of a busy day.

Leaving the restaurant, Louise spotted this book that must, must be truly spectacular and a kind of project of love, so fitting in this bookstore and restaurant. Down the stairs, we chatted with the chef as he finished signing his cookbook for a guest and Roberta asked for help with a book “Its on Queen Margaret and the author’s last name may start with a W.” We could have spent the entire day right here.img_3908

Rocky Mountain High

Best story of the trip – Ned and I were talking about John Denver. Ned has been in Aspen for the long haul and knew John as a guy around town. Ned fixed up his skis and watched him fly his plane through the valley. John’s father was a military pilot and shared the love of flying with John. But back to the story. Ned’s neighbor in a duplex with thin walls, was the secretary to John Denver. He recalls a time when John returned from an expedition with Jacques Costeau and was playing a song next door. The music really caught his attention as something fresh and uplifiting. It was the song Calypso!

Today I walked through John’s Song Sanctuary. A meandering path along a stream in a park has stones with words from dreamers and poets including John. Along the path I met and chatted with a couple walking their energetic dog. They knew where Discovery Bay is at! After raising their children in Orinda, they moved to Aspen. We talked about our shared love of John Denver’s music and enjoyed the quiet space.


Time With Jan and Ned

Time with Jan and Ned is our number one reason for visiting Snowmass, number two being the flower shop search. We are clearly the only people up here during ski season to visit family in their home, and not on the slopes. But, truth be told, if Jan could pop up onto the slopes, things would have been different.

Ned has created a set up at home that works well for them. Jan is downstairs all of the time now, with her bed in the living room and Ned sleeps in the loft bedroom. From both rooms, the view of The Big Burn on Snowmass Mountain is spectacular through the floor to ceiling windows.


We’ve had several visits already and will visit twice more today. They both look great. Ned keeps the conversation going and Jan chimes in using her tools to clarify dates and facts as we go. They were both interested to hear about our trip to Nova Scotia and visits to where Jan’s grandfather  (and Louise’s) grew up in Pugwash and Wentworth, as well as my visit to Paterson, New Jersey where I visited places he lived in his late teens and early twenties. There is a real plus side to focusing on the visiting time itself, and not another activity, when seeing family.

Let’s Try the Fondue

Walking by La Creperie du Village in downtown Aspen, I had to pop back and take a photo. The patio filled with wooden and metal bistro tables, furs on the chairs, sparkling glassware and curious decorations caught my eye. After walking around and around to find the fondue restaurant, we realized it was right in this funky corner spot.

Roberta and I have been sharing fondue meals on Christmas Eve for 50 years now. Growing up, it was beef cooked in oil. Matt and I added the cheese fondue, and expanded the offerings for the bubbling oil.



A lovely cheese fondue was our pleasure for lunch, the specialty of the house. After setting up the sterno and metal platform, toasted bread, apples, and charcuterie with house cured cornichons, the bubbling cheese arrived. It was beautiful, tasty and a wonderful way to relax together. Our eyes kept noticing the unique items in the restaurant, the black and white chandelier, the huge cow bells, the old skis on the ceiling (of course), pillows fluffed just so, and sparking lighting elements. The wait staff was polite and ever so patient. It really was a perfect meal and we didn’t even have to scrub the bottom of the pot on Christmas day. But, truth be told, ours is better.